November 22, 2007

Paragon’s People (10 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

The student couldn’t bear the repeated clicking of the remote – the thinker had kept channel surfing for the last hour, as if trying to prise out some truth of this strange and, frankly, unbelievable turn of events.


The President’s chin and calm, friendly white teeth smile filled the screen as his recorded address calmly explained his reasons for standing down and handing the reins over to the Vice-President. Talking heads droned over him, as usual adding nothing to the reported news, but subtracting everything they could to bolster their own celebrity status.

‘God fucking dammit,’ the thinker said. ‘God fucking damn this fucking fuck thing to hell.’ He threw the remote across the room. ‘Fuck!’

The thinker wasn’t the only one feeling wronged somehow. The student felt like he’d taken a punch to the gut, all his fire and plans – pissed on by this second-shit preacher whose chiselled jaw bulged with ingratiating smiles. It just didn’t make any sense to throw away all that power, not now.

The athlete said, ‘I don’t believe this.’

‘Oh will you change the record,’ said the musician, trying to straighten out some wrinkles in her top; her rainbow didn’t seem to be smiling any more. ‘None of us believes it.’

‘No, I mean it. I really don’t believe this. Is this for real? This kind of thing is, well, unprecedented, totally.’ He pronounced it unpreecedented. ‘He was a popular guy. We were underdogs.’

The thinker growled. ‘That’s the problem! The face is changing but his plans are still in motion. Now try getting people on our side. They’ll all say, well, look the guy you’re worried about is no longer in power, so take a chill fucking pill, man.’

The student got up to leave. He wasn’t even sure he believed there was anything worth fighting for either. More than a face had changed. The Vice-President wasn’t the same man at all. The student remembered him squirming when facing some questions on the CNN over the British fallout from the ethical signatures, the sweat resting on his brow.

‘Where are you scooting off too?’ said the poet, who had remained fairly quiet throughout the news. His only discernable reaction was the act of folding his arms.

‘Campus,’ the student replied. ‘I can’t sit here and watch this crap all night. We’re supposed to talk about how we change things for the better. Things are changing faster than we can bloody talk about changing them. I can watch TV anywhere.’

‘I don’t believe this,’ said the athlete.

The student’s girlfriend, looking shell-shocked by events, stood up too. ‘Yeah, let’s go. I need to shake my head of this.’

‘We’ll still meet up, guys, right?’ said the thinker, desperation seeping in. ‘There’s still the cause, right?’ He raised his fist in a distant, weak echo of the student’s bolder thrust earlier.

‘Whatever,’ the student said. ‘You have to fight for something real.’ He pointed at the TV bearing smiling white teeth that bobbed and weaved in slow motion. ‘He isn’t real any more. I’ll come back if you have something to fight for.’

He gazed at each one of his compadres, and noticed the only person who was pleased was the cop’s daughter, the first smile he’d seen on her face since attending these meetings. She was the only genuine one here, her only goal to change how things were. And things had changed and she was happy with that. An honest challenger with no ego invested. He saw that everybody wanted to change things because they simply wanted to reshape life to suit themselves and to hell with other people: a mere excuse for narcissism.

Perhaps he should be happy too but his map of personal destiny was in tatters. Bliss’ attentions had prodded him forward inch by inch, and now he was in the middle of nowhere, falling into an unmarked pit, waiting for the bottom to claim him. Suddenly – he was alone.

The student left the thinker’s apartment, with his girlfriend in tow.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1114

November 13, 2007

Paragon’s People (9 of 11)

Thread: Uncategorized

The student realised the thinker didn’t understand at all. It was the very pure, bestial freedom that was being eroded and lost every day. Animals act on instinct. The more humans progressed, the more they second-guessed, worried, self-mutilated their minds over simple decisions. Mental self-harm. It was natural to outsource the worry to a higher authority. But that authority was not holy, it was human, with all its flaws and desires. Those who take up the mantle then besiege the confused, panicky population with dark slogans: Life is dread! Every waking moment a peril! Fear the freedom of others to do things to you, fear your own freedom to undo you! Donate your freewill to the higher cause – and our instructions will lead you to the Holy Grounds!

His friends seemed to fade into the background and he just let the sentences spill out of his mouth, unguarded and unashamed. ‘We’ve dragged ourselves out of the swamps and into the bright sunlight of intelligence. But we’re just frightened rabbits, right, in the sun’s headlights and we don’t know what good or evil mean any more, we don’t know what we’re supposed to do at all. All we seem to be really good at doing is finding out more and more and fucking up our brains. The puzzle gets bigger and more complicated. So much information to take on board, the internet drowns us and we scrabble for dry land, anything that can keep us afloat. Faced with the enormous complexity of life, nature, science, art – fucking everything – we feel like turning back, putting up our hands and resigning. But we can – we should – make our hands into fists and roar at the universe that we don’t give in that easily.’

He stood up, raised a fist at the air itself and shouted: ‘Fuck you, universe!’

His eyes watered as he hadn’t blinked throughout his little rant against the faulty human system. He glanced across his friends through a gauze of tears, and saw that his fellow anarchists had been stunned into silence. Were they impressed or just shocked? He sighed aloud, for he was still alone after all. There was potential in this group, but would the thinker prove to be an ally or a hindrance in the long-term?

But his girlfriend. She stared at him with an expression that was neither pitiful nor hateful, just intrigued. He didn’t understand why – did she get it now? Did she understand? The group hadn’t been happy to bring a zealot into their midst without some grooming… but he was hopeful she could be turned around. There was always an elegant consistency to her perspective; if he could puncture some of her views, then she might, just might, re-arrange everything to see things their way.

The athlete broke the silence with a sharp change of subject, saying, ‘You know, what’s really worrying are the current rumours about the Paladins-’

‘Holy moley moley!’ the musician shouted, who had been playing with her cell.

The thinker shouted, ‘Good God, enough shouting for this evening! Could everybody please stop shouting!’

‘TV, get the TV on right now. Any channel, any channel at all. You are not going to believe this.’

‘Believe what?’ said the thinker.

The musician was lost for words, gasping for something, stuck with just: ‘TV!’

The student hauled himself up off the floor, wandered over to the TV, switched it on, saw two words in bold, white lettering on its plasma display and felt his jaw drop.

‘Get out of the fucking way,’ yelled the poet, ‘we can’t see a bloody thing!’ The student jumped aside as ordered.

The thinker retorted, ‘Stop shouting for God’s sakes! Will you please stop the’ –he saw the same two words that had stunned the student– ‘oh you gotta be kidding.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2224

November 1, 2007

Paragon’s People (8 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

‘Oh sweet, you owe me 1400 bucks. Welcome to Pennsylvania Avenue!’ shouted the poet.

The cop’s daughter handed over the cash, casual and cold. The student didn’t think he’d ever seen her smile in or out of that coat, but then again out of all of them, she was the only one who was in real danger. She was still quieter than normal, though, and he knew that was his fault. The cop’s daughter kept eyeing the cross dangling from his girlfriend’s necklace with suspicion.

‘How did you find the group?’ the girlfriend asked the student, sitting cross-legged on the floor beside him.

Before the student could answer, the poet said, ‘I brought him in. The group finds you!’ He sniggered, childish yet disarming. ‘I saw him scribbling nudes one day on his notebook in one of the lectures and I thought my mate here had fallen out of the system.’

Nudes?’ she said, unable to mask her surprise.

This was a moment for her discover some of his new truth. He said, ‘Yes, nudes. This is who I am, don’t you get it? We’ve been way too clinical with each other, holding back our thoughts and feelings, keeping ourselves pretty and pious. When we lost our virginity together I bet you felt the same as I did at the time – with instant regret that we’d spoilt what we were. You ran straight for the shower, right?’

The girlfriend said nothing, her face blushing, eyes drifting away towards the board.

‘But it’s true. People shouldn’t behave like this. We’re meant to be alive and sexual creatures that hunger and lust. We’re all supposed to be having fun and making babies, not wearing camouflage. When did tying instinct become part of the human condition? It’s not what the real God would have wanted. Your religion… the President’s religion… it’s a lie, I tell you. Am I right or am I right, everyone?’

No one said a word. In fact, all of the gang seemed to be more interested in their Monopoly cash and property cards. The girlfriend’s blush spread down her neck.

He moved closer towards his girlfriend, intent on making his point now that it had arrived. ‘Sex is like dirt under the fingernails. That’s why I draw the pictures. It’s to challenge me, to prove that I don’t care about the rules of society. Christ, we didn’t even leave the light on. Fumbling in the dark with bits we can’t see. That’s not sex, that’s play-acting. Did you make noises at all the right times? I think I did.’

His girlfriend was shrunken and motionless, bowed away from him as if in prayer; a few tears dropped from her face and spattered against the board, flooding the Reading Railroad. Then he realised he was an idiot, talking about their private affairs in public. He had sought tears earlier, but not here, the odds were stacked against her – fool. He might not have had inhibitions, but she still had, and one angry, open conversation in a clique of strangers wasn’t going to work. Way to go, asshat.

The thinker broke the silence. ‘Economy being flushed down the drain too,’ he said. ‘Fed Europe’s imports being crippled by that ethical signature shit. China doing it’s best but America is not getting what it needs any more, you know. Being poor is getting really dangerous now and that means more crime… and more crime means harsher punishments….’

The girlfriend, with a wet, red face, broke out of her depressed torpor. ‘You can’t be serious,’ she said, angered. ‘Things are getting better. We’re in the country of Rising Morality. We-’

‘Don’t sound bite me,’ the thinker interrupted.

‘Let me finish. We don’t accept goods obtained through immoral means and we don’t tolerate garbage in politics anymore. Why do you think we all voted for that man and then prayed for him through civil war? Are you telling me none of you voted for him? Turncoats, all of you. Hypocritical savages. Crime is down, people are happier. Business now thinks for its people.’

The student was surprised, heartened perhaps, that she was suddenly punching for her side.

‘Listen, there’s only one type of business that thinks for its people, Goldilocks,’ the thinker said, leaning backwards against a sofa behind him. ‘Government. Business is being controlled so much that it is becoming government. Some companies – think Microsoft – are being nationalised, swallowed whole and absorbed by the Whitehouse. Stop watching “Fucks” News. You might think it’s good for the people, but this is not going to end well while that God-fearing President of ours is in power. Actually, I take that back. I don’t think he fears God at all.’

Everyone snickered – everyone except for the student’s girlfriend.

The student thought again of the bound woman, smiling, comfortable and pleasured within her straps.

He jumped into the fray again, more animated than before, ‘It’s nice being told what to do and what to think – it frees you from the burden of decision. You can never make a mistake, because you never have the opportunity to do so. Your life is as good as it can be, because it is prescribed. You can be very happy like that. But One Flew… we’re not happy with that. We want the freedom to be wrong and make mistakes. We want the freedom to learn. The generation of our Mom and Pop want it put down, like some lame dog, but every dog has his day!’

The thinker interrupted, as if he were concerned the student was stealing his own illustrious thunder, ‘Think about that. To take away our capacity to err, to be cloaked in warm, thick control, to see merely fences around us and wonder, frightened, what might lie beyond. To make us all just toilers of land, with nothing to cry or think about – we become beasts of burden. It is guilt and blasphemous wisdom that sets us apart from the rest of the creatures on this planet. Everyone wants a simple life, rules telling them what to do – it makes us no better than animals.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2304